Saturday, October 29, 2011

New book: Mystery and Secrecy in the Nag Hammadi Collection and Other Ancient Literature


Mystery and Secrecy in the Nag Hammadi Collection and Other Ancient Literature: Ideas and Practices

Studies for Einar Thomassen at Sixty
Edited by Christian H. Bull, Liv Ingeborg Lied and John D. Turner

Mystery and secrecy were central concepts in the ritual, rhetoric, and sociological stratification of antique Mediterranean religions. That the ultimate nature and workings of the divine were secret, and either could not or should not be revealed except as a mystery for the initiated, was widely accepted among Pagans, Jews, and then Christians, both Gnostic and otherwise. The similarities and differences in the language of mystery and secrecy across religious and cultural borders are thus crucial for understanding this important period of the history of religions.
The present anthology aims to present and analyze a wide selection of sources elucidating this theme, reflecting the correspondingly wide scholarly interests of Professor Einar Thomassen in honor of his 60th birthday.
UPDATE: And, of course, congratulations to Professor Thomassen!

Tom Verenna: November Biblical Studies Carnival: The Undead Edition

TOM VERENNA: November Biblical Studies Carnival: The Undead Edition.

Friday, October 28, 2011

From the Biblioblogosphere


Mystical Politics: Jewish Annotated New Testament just published.

Alin Suciu: Coptic Bible Resources.

Apocryphicity: Thoughts on Ehrman and Pleše’s Apocryphal Gospels.

Byzantine prayer box excavated in Jerusalem

Byzantine Prayer Box Found in Jerusalem Dig
Miniature box adorned with cross dates from 6-7 century CE. Contained two icons surrounded by gold leaf.

By Gil Ronen (Arutz Sheva)
First Publish: 10/27/2011, 9:07 PM

Archaeologists in Jerusalem discovered a miniature Christian prayer box that dates back to the sixth or seventh century CE.

The box was found at the "Givati parking lot" dig in Ir David. Dig supervisors noted that illustrated Byzantine holy objects are very rarely found in the Holy Land.

The box contained two icon paintings surrounded by gold leaf and was probably a personal prayer object. It is 2.2 cm. (about 0.9 inch) long by 1.6 cm. wide and is made from the bone of a large animal – cattle, a camel or a horse.

Follow the link for photos.

NYC DSS exhibit opens today

Dead Sea Scroll Objects On Display

Analysis by Rossella Lorenzi (Discovery News)
Thu Oct 27, 2011 03:50 PM ET
(0) Comments | Leave a Comment

A three-ton stone from Jerusalem's Western Wall, hundreds of biblical era artifacts, and a collection of 20 Dead Sea Scrolls will make their debut tomorrow in New York's Discovery Times Square Exposition.

The largest collection of biblical artifacts ever displayed outside Israel, the exhibition "Dead Sea Scrolls: Life and Faith in Biblical Times," aims to take visitors on a "fascinating archaeological journey through the Holy Land."

Background here and links.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

KJB@400 Watch: Ambivalencies: Jews and the King James Version

Ambivalencies: Jews and the King James Version

By Alan T. Levenson

Schusterman/Josey Professor of Jewish Intellectual History
Judaic Studies, University of Oklahoma
October 2011 (Bible and Interpretation)

The 400th birthday of the King James Version (KJV) has prompted widespread celebration in academic and popular venues.1 While Jews have usually read the Bible from a scroll in Hebrew for liturgical purposes, the history of Jewish Bible translation is a long one and includes many languages, including Greek, Aramaic, Arabic, and Yiddish. Modernity sparked a renewed interest in the Bible among Jews and a new wave of translations, particularly into German and English.2 Surveying the relationship of Jews and the KJV, I cannot help but employ that overused word in the scholarly lexicon: ambivalence.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

From the Paleo-Blogosphere


Ralph the Sacred River: Swarming in Hebrew.

Mystical Politics: Why did Yasser Arafat deny the existence of the Temple in Jerusalem?

The Talmud Blog: Medicine and the Redaction of the Talmud- Guest Post by Michael Satlow. Better stock up on those century-old reed tubes before the EPA bans them.

Bible Places Blog: InscriptiFact: A Better Way To Read Inscriptions.

Thomas Verenna: FINAL CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS! And a Request. Submissions for the Biblical Studies Carnival for November, that is.

Apocryphicity: Conference on Erasure History. Erasure History would be a fine name for a band.

Alin Suciu: A Hitherto Unnoticed Coptic Fragment from the Apocalypse of John.

Four new books from the SBL


Celebrating the Dead Sea Scrolls
Peter W. Flint, Jean Duhaime, and Kyung S. Baek, editors

This volume celebrates the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, their contents, the movement that produced many of them, the community that preserved them all, and new questions and scientific issues that arise from Scrolls studies. The twenty-five essays, in four sections, explore the origins and text of scripture, the interpretation of scripture in Second Temple Judaism, the identity and practices of the movement associated with Qumran and the Scrolls, and the extensive contributions of Canadian projects and scholarship. Four color and four black and white plates are included in the volume.

Paper $76.95 • 674 pages • ISBN 9781589836037 • Early Judaism and Its Literature 30

Israel in the Persian Period: The Fifth and Fourth Centuries B.C.E.
Erhard S. Gerstenberger. Translated by Siegfried S. Schatzmann

Although the Persians are seldom mentioned explicitly in the Hebrew Bible, the Persian period (539–331 B.C.E.) gave new shape to ancient Israel, as the biblical text evolved and the foundations of the Judeo-Christian tradition were laid. Therefore, contrary to earlier views, Persian politics, culture, and religion were the setting within which the nascent Jewish community lived and took shape. Against the backdrop of the history and intellectual world of Persia, Gerstenberger describes this exciting 200-year period in the history of Israel, which saw both the creation of biblical literature (historical, prophetic, and poetic writings, especially the Psalms) and important theological developments (e.g., the shape and characteristics of the Jewish community, monotheism, and new means of shaping one’s world).

Paper $65.95 • 596 pages • ISBN 9781589832657 • Biblical Encyclopedia 8

Sculpting Idolatry in Flavian Rome: (An)Iconic Rhetoric in the Writings of Flavius Josephus
Jason von Ehrenkrook

This book investigates the discourse on idolatry and images, especially statues, in the writings of the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, with a particular focus on his numerous accounts of a contentious and at times iconoclastic relationship between Jews and images. Placing this narrative material within a wider comparative context, both Jewish and non-Jewish, demonstrates that the impression of strict aniconism—uniform and categorical opposition to all figurative art—emerging from Josephus is in part a rhetorical construct, an effort to reframe Jewish iconoclastic behavior not as a resistance to Roman domination but as an expression of certain cultural values shared by Jews and Romans alike. Josephus thus articulates in this discourse on images an idea of Jewish identity that functioned to mitigate an increasingly tense relationship between Romans and Jews in the wake of the Jewish revolt against Rome.

Paper $29.95 • 240 pages • ISBN 9781589836228 • Early Judaism and Its Literature 33

Constructs of Prophecy in the Former and Latter Prophets and Other Texts
Lester L. Grabbe and Martti Nissinen, editors

This collection of essays, arising from the meetings of the SBL’s Prophetic Texts and Their Ancient Contexts Group, examines how prophecy has been constructed in biblical literature such as the Former Prophets, the Latter Prophets, Chronicles, and Daniel, and even in the Qur’an. Recognizing that these texts do not simply describe the prophetic phenomena but rather depict prophets according to various conventional categories or their own individual points of view, the essays analyze the way prophecy or prophets are portrayed in these writings to better understand how they were structured by their respective authors.

Paper $31.95 • To access free online click here • 266 pages • ISBN 9781589836006 • Ancient Near East Monographs 4

Reviews of Fishman, "Becoming the People of the Talmud"

Talya Fishman. Becoming the People of the Talmud: Oral Torah as Written Tradition in Medieval Jewish Cultures. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011. 413 pp. $65.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-8122-4313-0.

Reviewed by Joseph Shatzmiller (Duke University)
Published on H-Judaic (October, 2011)
Commissioned by Jason Kalman

The Transformation of Oral Law into Written Law

“Oral matters may not be inscribed,” decrees a Jewish principle formulated in late antiquity. The subject of this prohibition was “the oral Torah” (the Mishnah and the Gemarah, i.e., the Talmud that tradition maintained was handed to Moses on the Sinai together with the Holy Scriptures, the only ones to be kept inscribed). This prohibition notwithstanding, Jews have possessed since the High Middle Ages innumerable copies of the Talmud, either handwritten or, mostly, printed, which continue to be “oral law.” How did this happen? When and where did the transition take place?

While anthropologists and literary scholars assure us that some persons have the ability to memorize very long and complicated scriptures, the abandonment of this way of learning in favor of the use of the written word met at times with discontent by members of their societies. But our forefathers, who were not strangers to controversy and confrontation, did not leave us any trace of any strife that may have surrounded this transition to the written, as noticed by Jacob Sussman, the illustrious Talmudic scholar of Jerusalem. This prevents us from formulating exact answers to the questions of when and where.

Talya Fishman, who obviously spent many years and much effort trying to untangle these complexities, does not suggest solutions to these problems, but strives to point rather to documents and situations which may help to alleviate the difficulties. ...

How Jews Became the People of the Talmud
Thinkers Have Long Puzzled Over Oral and Written Traditions

By Lawrence Grossman
Published October 28, 2011, issue of November 04, 2011. (The Forward)

Becoming the People of the Talmud: Oral Torah as Written Tradition in Medieval Jewish Cultures
By Talya Fishman
University of Pennsylvania Press, 424 pages, $65


Fishman, an associate professor of religious studies at the University of Pennsylvania, seeks to pinpoint when and how the Babylonian Talmud as a physical book turned into the very essence of Jewish learning, or, put conversely, how the People of the Book — the Jews who brought the Bible to the world — became, as her title puts it, the “People of the Talmud.” She also addresses the social and religious impact of the change.


Lectures on the Gospel of Thomas

Conference examines Gospel of Thomas

Rosa Salter Rodriguez
| The Journal Gazette

In a time when the Christian message seems split among members of different cultures, denominations, generations, genders and sexual orientations, it might behoove Christians to look back at the first couple of centuries after Jesus.

That’s the view of Milton C. Moreland, Rhodes College biblical scholar and archeologist, who will be in the city Friday and Saturday as part of a conference sponsored by The Jesus Seminar, a contentious group that revisits Christian ideas about Jesus.

Moreland will speak during “The Fifth Gospel: The Gospel of Thomas and the Wisdom of Jesus,” which begins at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Unitarian-Universalist Congregation of Fort Wayne.

The event, which also features co-presenter Rubén René Dupertuis, assistant professor of religion at Trinity University in San Antonio, continues from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.


Mughrabi Gate Bridge may be closed soon

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: The Mugrahbi (Mugrabi) Gate Bridge may be closed soon:
Mughrabi Gate bridge
Photo by: Marc Israel Sellem
J'lem again vows to demolish temporary Mughrabi Gate bridge
By MELANIE LIDMAN (Jerusalem Post)
10/26/2011 02:16

Structure leading to the Temple Mount is dangerous, says the Jerusalem city engineer.

For the second time in six months, Jerusalem’s city engineer has threatened to destroy the temporary bridge connecting the Western Wall Plaza to the Temple Mount in an effort to force the Western Wall Heritage Fund to replace the aging structure.

City Engineer Shlomo Eshkol said the bridge, used by non-Muslims, was in danger of collapse and gave the Western Wall Heritage Fund 30 days to work on a replacement plan.

City: Destroy Mughrabi Gate within two weeks
Mughrabi Bridge renovation gets municipal nod

Eshkol made similar threats in May, when he said the Fund had two weeks to remove the bridge or the city would destroy it. The Fund said that the decision depended on the Prime Minister’s Office, and since then no plans were made to demolish the bridge.

The covered ramp has been used since 2004, when a small earthquake and winter storm caused part of the original bridge to collapse. The Mughrabi Bridge is the main entry point for non-Muslim tourists to access the Temple Mount from the Western Wall plaza, as well as for security forces entering the area in times of unrest.


Complex disputes may close Mughrabi Bridge walkway giving Jews access to Temple Mount
posted by Rob Kerby, Senior Editor | 4:51pm Tuesday October 25, 2011 (Beliefnet)

Jewish access to their most holy site, Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, may be cut off after the city’s engineer, Shlomo Eshkol, ruled the temporary Mughrabi Bridge has become unsafe — and the Muslim fraternity that oversees the sensitive area forbade any repairs.

The covered ramp leads from the base of the Mount at the Western Wall — the “Wailing Wall” — and provides non-Muslims with access to the area where Solomon’s Temple stood. A temporary structure, the walkway was built in 2004 after an earthquake destroyed a stone ramp built by soldiers at the end of the 1967 Six-Day War that gave Israel control of the holy area.


The Mughrabi Bridge must be built

10/25/2011 22:28 (Jerusalem Post)

It is time to put an end to this sad affair, which has been blown beyond all proportion. The temporary bridge leading to the Temple Mount must be replaced with a permanent one.


Needless to say, there has never been any basis to the venomous claim that Israel is endangering the Temple Mount mosques or seeks to cause their collapse. Radical elements such as Raed Salah have utilized the events at the Mughrabi Ascent to increase their own status, to incite against Israel and to attempt to destabilize Israeli sovereignty in a unified Jerusalem.

It is time to put an end to the Mughrabi Gate affair, which has been blown beyond all proportion, and to speedily replace the temporary bridge with a permanent one. There is no need for stealth or covert action. It should be done openly and with full transparency, just as Israel has acted so far, while displaying consideration and sensitivity for the ties of various Islamic and Arab bodies to the site.

However, a clear line should be drawn, one that distinguishes between consideration, sensitivity and respect, and the conduct befitting a sovereign nation that is obligated to manage crises, but also to reach decisions and execute them, even in the highly sensitive area of the Temple Mount.
Background here with endless links. The story of the ramp collapse that led to the building of the temporary bridge was noted here and here back in 2004.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Hannibal and Kocaeli, part 2

PUNIC WATCH: Part two of Elsie Alan's survey of the life of Hannibal has been published in Today's Zaman: [THE OUTSIDER] Kocaeli dead celebrities: Hannibal, menace of Rome (2). Excerpt:
Back to Spain, 218 B.C., New Carthage (Cartagena): Little Hannibal has grown up, and is finally in a position to avenge his now-dead daddy, Hamilcar, by managing to pick a fight with Rome. Rome has demanded that Hannibal and his very talented brothers all come to Rome in chains, or it is war. This was very stupid of Rome; that was just what Hannibal wanted them to say. Oh boy, a war with Rome! Like a kid with a new toy, Gen. Hannibal put together a very diverse, scary army, consisting of Spaniards, Celts and Africans. The Africans consisted of Northern Berber tribes, as well as the formidable and feisty Numidians, crazy-fierce horsemen who were renowned for their savagery and skill. He also had elephants, probably shipped down the Med from Syria. So in May, 218 B.C., the all-grown-up Hannibal left Cartagena with 90,000 foot, 12,000 cavalry and 32 elephants to surprise Rome by attacking it FROM THE NORTH; 102,000 people are five times the population of my home town; Hannibal was 29 years old.

The only way he could approach Rome by land, of course, was to go up the Iberian Peninsula, into France, across the Rhone with his elephants, over the Swiss Alps and down into Italy, pursued in Keystone Kops hilarity by the Roman army, who had got the word that Hannibal was up to something no good. He also had to secure Roman and Greek settlements along the way and fight Gallic tribes throughout the Alps, which was where the Victor Mature scenes come in and deal with bad directions from his “friendly” Gallic turncoat guides; never mind the snow and ice past the tree line. Easy, right? In the less than six months it took for him to succeed, for succeed he did, he lost or left behind to secure his back 79,000 men and 31 elephants and many, many horses and mules. At least half the men died, and all of the elephants except the one. But he did it.

Latest on Jerusalem Museum of Tolerance

THE LATEST on the Jerusalem Museum of Tolerance and the Mamilla Cemetery:
Grave concerns
International archaeologists are calling for work to stop at the Museum of Tolerance.

By Noam Dvir (Haaretz)

Eighty-four senior archaeologists from leading research institutions around the world have called on the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Jerusalem municipality and the Israel Antiquities Authority to put an end to construction of the Museum of Tolerance in the center of the city. In a letter sent to the three bodies over the weekend, the archaeologists argue that the establishment of the museum on the site of the Mamilla Muslim cemetery contradicts ethical standards in the archaeological world, as well as Israeli law. In May 2010, Haaretz published a comprehensive report on the secret removal of remains from the cemetery.

"The bulldozing of historic cemeteries is the ultimate act of territorial aggrandizement: the erasure of prior residents," says Prof. Harvey Weiss of Yale University, a leading expert on the beginning of urbanization in the world. "Desecration of Jerusalem's Mamilla cemetery is a continuing cultural and historical tragedy," he said.

Background here with many links.

Not looking good for bloggers in Egypt

EGYPTIAN BLOGGERS seem to be faring no better under the new government:
Egyptian blogger Maikel Nabil sent to mental hospital, “unacceptable” says health official

Sarah Sheffer | 24 October 2011 | 0 Comments (Bikyamasr)

CAIRO: The Egyptian government’s referral of Egyptian blogger Maikel Nabil Sanad to the Abbaseyya Mental Hospitral is “a dangerous and unacceptable affair,” according to a statement from Basma Abdel Aziz, Director of Media Department of Egypt’s General Secretariat of Mental Health.

Nabil, who has been on a prison hunger strike since August 23, was referred to the Abbaseyya Mental Hospital by Egyptian authorities.


Nabil was sentenced to a three-year jail term for insulting the Egyptian military on his blog “Son of Ra,” in a blog post published last March entitled, “The people and the military were never one hand.”

Nabil, a Coptic Christian, holds controversial political views. As such, he has received little attention from the activist and pro-rights community in Egypt.

For similar atrocities under Mubarak, see here (a different Nabil), here, and here, and follow the links.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Qur'anic manuscript exhibit at INL

Rare Muslim manuscripts go on display at Israel's National Library
Among the texts to be displayed as part of a special series on the history of Islam, are two Korans from the ninth century, just 200 years or so after the writing of the first Koran.

By Nir Hasson Tags: Islam Israel culture (Haaretz)

The National Library in Jerusalem is to begin displaying old Muslim religious texts from its collections, including some that are quite rare. Among the texts to be displayed as part of a special series on the history of Islam, are also two Korans from the ninth century, just 200 years or so after the writing of the first Koran.

More on early Qur'anic manuscripts here, here, here, and here.

Google Time Travel?

Visualizing Egypt’s Elephantine with Vienna University of Technology’s gePublish

Posted on 2008/03/16 by Stefan Geens (Ogle Earth)

In the run-up to the talk about Google Earth and Egypt, Peter Ferschin at the Institute of Architectural Sciences, Digital Architecture and Planning at the Vienna University of Technology got in touch to show what he and his colleagues have been working on in association with the German Archaeological Institute (DAI) in Cairo: A KML and COLLADA content management system called gePublish that really pushes the envelope in helping archaeologists visualize how ancient settlements evolved over time.

Cool graphics.

For much more on ancient Elephantine and its Aramaic papyri, see here and links.

Sunday, October 23, 2011